All major texts mention that Sri Adi Sankara lived about 2500 years ago. However, the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ cites that Sri Adi Sankara was initiated by Babaji around the 8th Century AD. Which one of them is right?

If Adi sankara Bhagavadpada had been initiated into Kriya Yoga by Babaji, his disciples like Thotakachara or Hastamalaka etc would have mentioned it in their works. Sri Adi sankara Bhagavadpada himself has dedicated all his works to his guru Sri Govinda Bhagavadpada. He would have mentioned his initiation by Babaji in his books, had that been the case. This being a case which cannot be concluded without any trace of doubt, we cannot say any thing further conclusively on initiation of Sri Adi Sankara’s initiation by Babaji.

I have not been into any specific spiritual practices so far. However I would like to have the darshan of an enlightened sage. Are there any enlightened sages like Ramana Maharshi or Ramakrishna at present whose darshan I can have?

There are enlightened sages even today. However, it might not be of much use if I name one or two of them. At the right moment, you will find your Master. We shall pray for you so that you find your Guru soon.

Why is it that only Mahans have divine visions and blissful experiences and not ordinary people?

Incarnations are rare indeed and their case is different.
As for the rest, God does not discriminate between any of His creations. However, the divine experiences and visions depend on the extent of Sadhanas (spiritual practices) that one has performed. The sadhana that one performs is a continuation of the sadhanas of his previous births.
One can no doubt, have divine visions and blissful experiences in this birth itself, if he incessantly chants the Maha Mantra with complete faith and devotion.

Please enlighten me on what is the principal difference between Azhwars and Nayanmars.

Azhwars worshipped Lord Narayana as their ‘Ishta’ (favorite deity), and nayanmars worshipped Lord Shiva as their ‘Ishta’. This is the principal difference.

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has been described as a mahan. The Gaudiya vaishnavas believe that He is an avatar of Krishna Himself. Do you also believe in the same?

We believe so too.

Why are most of the Mahans men and not women?

This notion is not right. We have so many mahans who were women – Meera, Andal, Avvayar, Karaikkal Ammayar, Janabai, Chakkubai, Saradamani, Anandamayi Ma and so on. There have been quite a few women saints in the past who have not opted come to limelight because of the customs that prevailed during their time.

You have, in your speech said that we cannot see God and can only feel His presence. But it is taught earlier that Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda have seen God directly and got His blessings. I beg for your clarification.

We see because God is in us. So how to see him who is ‘behind’ the vision! Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ‘saw’ God not with eyes. They experienced Him and to make us understand it can be expressed only as ‘seeing’. Like you say, I saw in my dream. Did you see through your eyes? It was in level of mind – which is a level deeper than physically seeing, right? Likewise, God Realization is in a level deeper than mind.

Bhagavan Ramana’s preaching is that the word ‘I’ is the greatest mantra, greater than even the Pranava Mantra, and by constantly practicing self-enquiry, the mind will merge into its source and liberation results. But I am not able to reconcile Ramana’s saying with your statement “Mahamantra of Krishna is the greatest mantra”. How can somebody who has realized say that only one particular form is the greatest while every form has to be eventually abandoned. Is not the enquiry ‘Who Am I’ the only path where all other paths end? Please clarify.

In this context, please allow me to ask you a few questions –
• One day while the young Ramana was at home, the fear of death gripped him. He decided to face this fear and in order to investigate, immediately rushed upstairs and lay as stiff as a corpse, pretending to be dead. He got rid of the fear of Death once for all and emerged as a Realized Being.
• After the above incident happened, a visitor to his house uttered the word ‘Arunachala’ and this drew him at once to the Arunachala Hill. He narrates this account himself. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or ‘Arunachala’?
• Before leaving for the Arunachalam, he wrote a letter to his family members in which he said he was going to meet his Father. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or his Father?
• As soon as he reached the Holy Arunachala temple, he ran straight into the sanctum sanctorum and embraced the Lord who was in the form of a Lingam. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Lord in the form of the Lingam ?
• While he lived in Tiruvannamalai, once, when his mother fell ill, he composed two beautiful poems on Lord Arunachaleswara pleading the Lord to cure her. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Lord Arunachaleswara?
• Once, when the Arunachaleswara deity was taken as a procession around the Hill (‘giri valam’), as the procession passed the Ashram, Bhagavan Ramana immediately stood up in reverence. When the devotees around wondered why he did so and enquired, he replied, ‘Appavirkku pillai enrum adakkam’ (The son is always subservient to the Father). Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Father?
• Bhagavan Ramana’s compositions like ‘Arunachala Aksharamanamalai’, ‘Arunachala Stuthi Panchakam’, ‘Arunachala Ashtakam’ etc. sing praise of none other than Lord Arunachaleswara. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or Lord Arunachaleswara?
• The lyrics of one of his Tamil compositions read thus: ‘ninaivaru naal mudhalaaga miga peridhena…’ referring to the Arunachala which translates as ‘since the day I remember, I ascertained Arunachala as the greatest’. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Arunachala?
• In one of his songs, Bhagavan Ramana says that the ‘I’ is nothing but Siva who is present in all the life forms including Lord Vishnu and Brahma. He has not composed any song on Lord Vishnu or Brahma. Is he not a Jivan Mukta?
Remember that all the aforementioned incidents had happened only after He had Realized the Self.
You will find answers to your question if you can answer the above questions.